Obama pushes preschool programs in Georgia trip

President Barack Obama on Thursday pitched a new plan to make preschool available to all 4-year-old children, declaring, "Education has to start at the earliest possible age."
Associated Press
Feb 15, 2013

With teachers as a backdrop, Obama made his case for greater access to preschool, arguing that poor children in particular can benefit. "Study after study shows that the earlier a child starts learning, the better he or she does down the road," he said. "But here's the thing: We are not doing enough to give all of our kids that chance."

It was Obama's second day on the road, after Tuesday's State of the Union address, to promote initiatives for his second term directly to the public.

His visit came on the same day Education Secretary Arne Duncan told senators on Capitol Hill that pending budget cuts could be devastating to current students and could hurt the nation's economy for years to come, if students aren't learning now.

"We're trying to do a lot more in terms of early childhood education, not go in the opposite direction," Duncan said. "Doing that to our most vulnerable children is education malpractice, economically foolish and morally indefensible."

Obama's team is warning Congress — and lawmakers' constituents — what is expected to happen if leaders fail to avert $85 billion in automatic budget cuts set to begin March 1. With the cuts looming, the administration has increased its pressure on lawmakers, and Obama's address Tuesday made clear he was not looking for compromise as he begins his second term.

Before his remarks in Decatur, Obama stopped by a classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center, which serves kids from infancy through pre-kindergarten. He played games with about a dozen children, bending down to give hugs or offer a fist bump.

"If you're looking for a good bang for your education buck , this is it right here," Obama said afterward. He praised the teachers as highly qualified. "This is not babysitting. This is teaching."

The White House fleshed out Obama's plan Thursday, proposing a "continuum of high-quality early learning for a child, beginning at birth and continuing to age 5." The government would fund public preschool for any 4-year-old whose family income is 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level — a more generous threshold than the current Head Start program, which generally serves kids from families below 130 percent of the poverty line. All 50 states and the federal government would chip in.

Obama also is proposing letting communities and child care providers compete for grants to serve children 3 and younger, starting from birth. And once a state has established its program for 4-year-olds, it can use funds from the program to offer full-day kindergarten, the plan says.

Still missing from Obama's plan are any details about the cost, a key concern among Republicans. The White House says federal investment in Head Start, an $8 billion program that serves almost 1 million kids, will grow. But Obama's aides have stressed that the new programs would not add to the nation's nearly $16.5 trillion debt.

"The last budget had over $1.5 trillion of mandatory and revenue savings, things like reductions in entitlements, closing loopholes," Jason Furman, a deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters Wednesday. He said the new initiatives would be smaller than that. Obama will outline details about the plan's cost when he sends his 2014 budget proposal to Congress next month, Furman said.

Ahead of that, the White House and Congress are weighing whether to let the deep automatic spending cuts to take hold on March 1. If that happens, some 10,000 teachers could be out of work and 70,000 students could be kicked out of Head Start programs, Duncan warned lawmakers. The cuts would also force an additional 14,000 Head Start workers to be laid off and would mean 1.2 million students from low-income families would have their schools' funding cut. Washington also would stop paying its share of 7,200 special needs educators' salaries.

If the White House wants to move ahead, officials are going to need help from the states to provide political cover and dollars alike. House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday involving the federal government in early childhood education was "a good way to screw it up." The Republican chairman of the House committee overseeing education policy, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., was cool toward the proposal and was unlikely to support new spending on it. And even Obama's allies acknowledged there was little Washington could do without governors' help.

Kline said that "before we spend more taxpayer dollars on new programs, we must first review what is and is not working in existing initiatives, such as Head Start."

Republicans and conservatives have questioned the effectiveness of Head Start programs, citing studies such as a Health and Human Services Department report last year showing that, while at-risk students enrolled in the pre-kindergarten programs saw tremendous gains in vocabulary and social development, those benefits largely faded by the time students reached third grade. The HHS report didn't explain why the students saw a drop-off in performance or predict how they would fare as they aged.

"There's reason for huge skepticism," said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank. "Most states are still in a ditch financially, and it's going to be a couple years before they're out of it. ... I don't know where the states are going to come up with the money for this."

Scores of other studies, however, were more favorable toward the program, which has been shown to make at-risk students more likely to complete high school and avoid criminal arrests. In pure dollars and cents, academics called it a smart investment.




@ arnmcrmn:

Lived in IL and never heard of the guy until he ran for the U.S. Senate.

Got my first whiff of corruption, when his main opponent Jack Ryan's "sealed" divorce papers “mysteriously” became public.



Well that settles it then.


@ deertracker:

LOL. Yea, IL sends its governors to prison cause politics in the state is so clean and pure.

BTW: Michelle got a nice salary raise in her job after hubby was elected to the IL Senate.


The Big Dog's back

You are so jealous of that man.


His wife too!


@ deertracker:

Wonder why the hospital didn't refill the position after she left?

You're so far up his tush; Pres. Obama could kill innocent men, woman and children and you'd say that they had it comin'.



Call and ask the hospital if you are really concerned. If he saved a innocent life you would be upset about that too. It's not about being up anyone's "tush". I just choose to give the man his credit for being who he is. It is extremely difficult to become President so he has earned the respect of many. Hate all you want but the fact is he is our leader not Gary Whatshisname!


@ deertracker:

You're right. I'll give him credit for having the highest number of Americans on long-term unemployment, SSDI, welfare and food stamps in the history of the country.

Quite a "leader." :)

So how about those 10 innocent dead Afghanis? No big deal huh?


Winnie is in love with Obama, he won't admit it.


I believe kids can learn at a very early age. I also believe it is a wise investment. All parents cannot do the things lady_dye did for lots of reasons. This is not about Obama, it's about your kids. Everyone wants to claim America is so great and the best at this or that but is it really? It's time to put up or shut up!


you MAKE the time to shape your kids lives!


I agree but you also have to provide for them by going to work. Some make it sound so black and white but we all know there is alot of gray in there. There are lots of single parents that really need the help with early education. Why not give your child every opportunity possibe to be successful?


More investment = More taxes. We already spend more money per student than any other nation in the world with mediocre results at best. Makes teachers and school boards accountable for their students results and demand parents to be more involved in their children's education. Most parents today look at school as a baby sitter.

Swamp Fox

deertracker who is going to pay for it, we can't fund education now, I know we can borrow from China, whats another trillion or so of federal debt. These same preschoolers will still be paying on the interest when they are adults... I am sure these preschools will be incorporated into our public school systems and taught by good union paying teachers...


Are you suggesting we do nothing? Should the parents stay home and go on welfare? Some of you want it both ways. Georgia and Oklahoma offer great preschool programs. Two very red states!

Now The Rest of...

Why is it the Federal goverment responsibility? Where is the cash coming from, typical liberal attitude, do it, don't worry where the money comes from, makes us feel good, we care....


No, what is the typical liberal attitude is, ban it 1st....if that doesn't work, throw money at it without really knowing if its going to work....if that doesn't work blame BUSH.

tell it how it is

I can agree with that. I, personally, did not vote for Obama and am disappointed others did. BUT, this is something I do agree with. Some parents can handle teaching their children, others are too busy working trying to provide for their family. Honestly, if parents can't afford to send their children to school, yet can stay home with them instead of going to work, there's something wrong there.
Many children are fine not going to preschool, others aren't. If it was more affordable, it really would help families and give the children more of a chance.

This is probably the only time I'll ever say I agree with Obama, just to throw that out there. But, like deertracker said, this is about the kids not the president.


"Education has to start at the earliest possible age."

For decades, television provided education for the preschoolers.





Sieg Heil Obama!



It's the parents responsibility to educate their children. "It's time to put up or shut up."


It is partially the parents resposibility. If a parent does not either home school or send their kids to school, what happens? They go to jail. Either way it is not free so put up or shut up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now The Rest of...

If you don't go to preschool, you go to jail, please come up for air...

tell it how it is

he meant the parents go to jail for contributing to Truancy..

Swamp Fox

Where in the Constitution does the Federal Government have any jurisdiction in education at any level?

The Big Dog's back

The whole Constitution is centered around education.

Swamp Fox

doggie breath, even for you that's an outlandish comment with no basis in fact. What section, of the Constitution deals with Federal responsibility for any type of education?

We are talking U.S. Constitution, not the Obama-Lenin manifesto that the goverment controls facets of our lives.....


21st century meet swamp fox!

Swamp Fox

Once again ignore the Constitution, how liberal of you...